Commission gives ambulance service with 80-minute wait times 45 days to make changes

How long should you have to wait for an ambulance? Five minutes, 10 minutes, or how about an hour?

A Citrus County man waited more than an hour for help to arrive. His family is outraged and so are county commissioners. In a situation where seconds could mean life or death, they say 80 minutes is just too long.

"He was laying there just getting weaker and weaker,” recalled James Koerner’s wife, Darlene Blanchard Koerner. “He was very bad. It was really bad."

James laid on the floor of his Crystal River home with internal bleeding. Darlene hoped and prayed her husband would make it, as she waited for an ambulance to arrive.

"He was in and out of consciousness and he kept saying, 'Sweetheart, I don't think I’m going to make it,'” Darlene said. “And he'd say to his sister, 'Jane, I don't think I'm going to make it.' Every time he'd wake up, 'Are they here yet? Are they here yet?'"

After 80 minute, Nature Coast EMS finally arrived. By the time they got James to the hospital, his situation was dire.

"Right away, they got four units of blood in him. The nurse practitioner said it was as serious as it gets," Darlene said.

Unfortunately, it's a terrifying story that repeated itself just a week later.

"A friend of mine that lives really close here, her husband fell and he hurt himself and he was bleeding pretty bad,” Koener’s sister, Jane Beller told FOX 13 News. “It took 50 minutes, five-zero minutes for them to get here."

At a December county commission meeting, concerned residents said they wanted changes to prevent a tragedy. Tuesday, commissioners agreed - something needs to change.

They told Nature Coast EMS it has 45 days to make necessary changes or the county will be forced to consider other options.

"45 days is appropriate. This is the hammer, this is the anvil, you have no choice but to do this," said Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie Smith.

"Hopefully, they do things a little quicker next time. That's about all I can say," James Koerner said.

FOX 13 requested a comment from Nature Coast EMS. It will be added to this story when a response is received.